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حَافِظُواْ عَلَى ٱلصَّلَوَٰتِ وٱلصَّلَٰوةِ ٱلْوُسْطَىٰ وَقُومُواْ للَّهِ قَٰنِتِينَ
-Al-Baqarah ( البقرة )

Tafsir al-Tustari

Maintain the prayers…That is, ‘Persist in upholding them’. However His words, And establish prayer and pay the alms. [24:56], have two aspects, one of which is establishing prayer without the affirmation [of faith], just as when He said in Sūra Barāʾa, if they repent, [9:5] meaning, from idolatry (shirk), and establish regular prayers’ [9:5], that is, committing themselves to prayer and almsgiving, then let them be. In this regard, He also said: Yet if they repent, establish prayer, and pay the obligatory alms, then they are your brothers in religion [9:11] [and comrades]. There is something similarto this in Sūrat al-Sajda. The second aspect of establishing [the prayers] (iqāma) is referred to when He says in Sūrat al-Mujādala, Then establish the prayer and pay the obligatory alms [58:13], as in Sūrat al-Muzzammil [73:20], and again with His words in Sūrat al-Māʾida, [believers who] establish the prayer [5:55], meaning that they fulfil it [that duty] completely.
…especially the middle prayer… [Sahl] was asked about these words, and the reason why [the middle prayer] is singled out. He replied:It is singled out due to a particular characteristic it possesses, even though it is not apart from the obligatory prayers as a whole, in the same way that Gabriel and others were singled out for mention among the host of the angels, due to a certain particularity.He continued:There is another reason, namely, that the times of the rest of the prayers are known by both the knowledgeable and the ignorant, because their signs are obvious. However, the time for the ʿAṣr prayer is less clear. Thus by mentioning [this prayer] in particular, He urged people to take care to observe it at its correct time.His words [that follow in the same verse]:…And stand before God in submissionThat is, ‘Stand before God in prayer in a state of obedience, for many a worshipper is disobedient,such as the hypocrite and his like. The Prophet was asked, ‘Which prayer is the best?’ He replied, ‘The longest in devotion (qunūt), that is, the prayer [for which] one stands the longest (ṭūl al-qiyām). And Zayd b. Arqam said that being devout (qunūt) is silence, for we used to speak during the prayer until God, Exalted is He, sent down the words, And stand before God in submission [2:238], after which we desisted from speaking [during prayer]. Muḥammad b. Sawwār said, ‘The qunūt is the witr, which was called a (qunūt) because of the supplication (duʿāʾ) which is offered in it whilst standing, aside from the recitation of Qurʾān.’ This is a kind of magnifying (taʿẓīm) [of God] through supplication.

Tafsīr al-Tustarī, trans. Annabel Keeler and Ali Keeler
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